Running Sideways

Category: Fine Life

By Paul Ward

It’s an honor to post this guest article on the #finelife blog. Kevin Fine has been an enormous influence on me, not just in his marathoning. Kevin is the ultimate empathetic practitioner who has been successful by being a good person. He also has raised a family of quality people who will keep his legacy of goodness going.

Guest writer Paul Ward at the Big Cottonwood marathon before his back spasms kicked in.

Speaking of keeping going. Here is what I learned from a recent marathon.

I’d been running sideways for about three miles. I was in the last 10k stretch of the Revel Big Cottonwood Canyon Marathon. This was my canyon growing up and running here means the world to me.

The dreaded “out and back section” of this race – which starts at mile 18 – was not as hard as I thought. Until my back went out and I couldn’t keep it straight.

I began running sideways like a drunk zombie.

With 1.8 to go I found some grass and laid down. The pain of trying to straighten was brutal.

Race medical crew were soon on the scene to check on me. They asked if they could drive me to the finish. In essence they offered me to quit.

I texted family members to asked for prayers and asked the crew to give me five minutes.

During those five minutes I reflected on why I was here. I thought of some negatives. I was running sideways because I’d gotten sideways on my training and diet. Maybe I got sideways in other areas like mindset?

Then I thought of the good.

I thought of the miraculous healing my achilles tendon has undergone since Memorial Day. I thought of my desire to qualify for Boston next year on this same course…the course that had literally bent me over in pain. I thought of never having to tell those who admire me of a DNF (did not finish).

And I summoned all the memories I had of that canyon. My first long bike rides up and down. My first fish, my first ski trip, my first backbacking trip, my first true love.

Last year I had turned in a respectable 2:05 half.

Could I quit now? No.

Could I even walk? Also no.

Some combination of those family prayers and all my summoning of memories got me up and going.

I asked the paramedics to call ahead to the finish line with my bib number and if it took all day to save a medal for me. I was going to finish.

When I crossed the line there were still folks on the course and the course was still open. The med staff gratefully let me rest until my back felt well enough to get carted to where I could catch my ride.

I don’t encourage anyone to push themselves to injury or to exacerbate their pain. But there are times in our lives when things look absolutely impossible- like when I was flat on my back on Butler hill – times in which will and collective good thoughts from loved ones and deep memories of who we really are, can carry us the final 1.8

So I’m going to qualify for Boston next year? I’m going to run 3:50 on a course I barely finished…taking over 6 hours?

It’s impossible. So, maybe.


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